This week, largely ignored in the face of Hurricane Harvey, one of Dallas municipal politics' biggest worms turned again when Mayor Mike Rawlings announcing a new date for the vote on the immediate removal of Lee Park's Robert E. Lee statue. The City Council will decide the issue Sept. 6, he announced late Monday.
Rawlings placed statue removal on the agenda at the request of three of the Dallas City Council's African-American City Council members, all of whom, like Rawlings, previously supported a plan to put together a task force to decide what to do with the city's Confederate monuments. While Casey Thomas, Dwaine Caraway and Tennell Atkins still support a task force, they want to start the process by moving the Lee statue.
Thomas, Caraway and Atkins want the task force to focus on the "removal of these public Confederate monuments and symbols and the renaming of public places, including parks and streets" that are named after Confederate figures. The Lee statue should be the first to go, they say, because it is not a designated city landmark or part of the city's public art collection.
Last week, several Dallas activists criticized the three council members for supporting Rawlings' plan, rather than a competing measure being pushed by Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston. Similarly to the current plan, Kingston's measure would have started from the premise that the statues and monuments needed to be removed and then appointed a task force to decide how to do so. Both Thomas and Atkins initially signed on to Kingston's plan before backing out to support Rawlings.
Activist Gerald Britt, the vice president of CitySquare, praised the council members Tuesday for their new plan.
"We are close to victory in getting Confederate monuments removed in Dallas and a task force to work out details regarding removal and recommendations as to the renaming of these spaces and streets named after them," he wrote on Facebook. "Big thanks to council members Casey Thomas, Dwaine Caraway, Tennell Atkins."
Caraway had said before that, while he wanted the statues taken down, other priorities were more important. But he said Tuesday that the new resolution was about doing what his constituents wanted.
"Here's the deal: I grew up here. I've seen it, and the Lee statue doesn't mean anything to me," Caraway told The Dallas Morning News . "But the people in the city and the voices we listen to are uncomfortable with it. And as mayor pro tem, I have responsibility for all citizens."